DES MOINES — When they really want to play and play together, this Grand View Christian boys’ basketball team is something, man.
The running, the jumping, the dunking, the alley-oops. The winning.
“The thing was everyone was focused in the second half,” GVC’s Issa Samake said, after his Thunder produced second-half lightning for a 59-36 victory over Montezuma in a Wednesday afternoon Class 1A state tournament semifinal at Wells Fargo Arena. “No one was down because we were (losing). Everyone was really together.”
Sometimes you’d have to imagine that to be a little difficult considering the unique makeup of this team.
Samake and fellow 6-foot-7 forward Harouna Sissoko are from Mali, senior forward Arturo Montes from Mexico. Point guard Kong Neyail transferred from Des Moines East.
But their talent is undeniable, and that’s what has Grand View on the cusp of a championship three-peat. It’s 25-1, the only loss to Class 4A state tourney qualifier Iowa City West by 10.
It trailed Montezuma here at halftime, 22-16, but, using that old cliche, simply seemed to flip a switch in the second half. GVC was the oncoming vehicle and Montezuma the soon-to-be roadkill.
“They were frustrated, absolutely,” said Coach Dave Stubbs. “You come in and you want to compete and you want to play well. Honestly, there wasn’t anybody who was really playing well for us. They were all disappointed in themselves, thought they were letting each other down. That’s when the family came together at halftime and said ‘Hey, we’re OK. Fight through this. We’ll play harder, play as a family.’ That’s what got us here, the unity. So we really preached that, and I tell you these guys came out a different team.”
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Samake came up one blocked shot shy of a unique triple-double, going for 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks. Montes had 14 points and eight boards, Sissoko 13 and seven.
There was just nothing outmanned Montezuma (22-2) could do. Nothing.
The Braves were outscored in the third quarter, 20-2.
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” said Montezuma’s Trey Shearer. “They used their length and athleticism on us more in the second half. They got out to run a little more, had some dunks in the second half. We kind of beat ourselves a little bit. Didn’t get the looks we had in the first half. Our shots didn’t quite fall like they did in the first half. They turned it around and used their length and athleticism on us, and that’s not something you can control. Your size.”
Montezuma Coach Derrick Dengler concurred with Shearer.
“They got on a big run and got us into a situation where we had to press, and the game got away from us a little bit,” Dengler said. “It came down to them making a lot of plays, and we struggled to find easy shots. So they end up running away with the game there.”
With Samake swatting away everything in the paint, Montezuma ended with nine 3-point field goals and only four twos. Shearer led the Braves with 13 points, though he was just 5 of 22 from the field.
Cole Watts had 12 points on four 3s, all in the first half. Montezuma plays Remsen St. Mary’s in the 1A consolation game Thursday morning.
Grand View Christian gets Alburnett in Friday afternoon’s title game.
“The championship game, we cannot play like that,” Sissoko said. “We cannot play like we did in the first half. That first half was not good.”
AT WELLS FARGO ARENA
MONTEZUMA (36): Brayden Arendt 0-0 0-0 0, Nolan Havran 0-2 0-0 0, Hunter Ray 3-9 0-0 8, Trey Shearer 5-22 1-2 13, Eddie Burgess 0-2 0-0 0, Nolan Reynolds 0-2 0-1 0, Cole Watts 4-10 0-0 12, Brydon Henning 0-0 0-0 0, Daniel Bryan 0-0 0-0 0, Joey Kercheval 0-0 0-0 0, Keaton Minner 0-0 0-0 0, Brody Chidester 0-0 0-0, Adam Cheney 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 13-48 1-3 36.
GRAND VIEW CHRISTIAN (59): Issa Samake 9-15 0-0 19, Arturo Montes 4-9 6-8 14, Harouna Sissoko 4-11 4-6 13, Kong Neyail 1-3 0-0 2, Bryce Crabb 2-5 0-0 4, Andrew Gatto 0-0 0-0 0, Andrew Long 2-2 0-0 5, Stevie Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Austin Tarbell 0-1 0-0 0, Alandis Arrasmith 0-0 0-0 0, Jonny Gotto 1-1 0-0 2, Jack Seyler 0-1 0-0 0, Gage Fry 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 10-14 59.
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Halftime — Montezuma 22, Grand View Christian 16. 3-point goals — Montezuma 9-26 (Havran 0-1, Rayn 2-5, Shearer 2-10, Burgess 0-1, Watts 4-8, Cheney 1-1), Grand View Christian 3-14 (Samake 1-5, Montes 0-1, Crabb 0-1, Sissoko 1-3, Wilson 0-1, Long 1-1, Tarbell 0-1, Seyler 0-1). Rebounds — Montezuma 24 (Ray 5), Grand View Christian 39 (Samake 11). Total fouls — Montezuma 14, Grand View Christian 11. Fouled out — None. Assists — Montezuma 8 (Burgess 3), Grand View Christian 11 (Montes 4). Turnovers — Montezuma 10, Grand View Christian 8.
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